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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Platform Skirmishes

The Democratic Convention Platform Committee formally approved a draft 2008 platform in Pittsburgh over the weekend, and though the final version isn’t presently available online, the draft they were working from is here. It’s true that party platforms don’t matter remotely as much as they used to (it will almost certainly be approved at the Convention on a voice vote with no real discussion), but they do occasionally reflect party positioning on certain hot-button issues.
According to press reports, the only major changes approved involved the health care language, where a compromise was worked out to accomodate Clinton supporters wanting something closer to HRC’s own plan, and also to head off a proposed amendment endorsing a single-payer system.
Assuming the draft platform’s language on abortion was retained (a good guess absent any publicity about proposed amendments), it appears pro-choice activists prevailed over those calling for a clear endorsement of “abortion reduction” strategies. The brief abortion plank begins with the most unambiguous statement of the party’s pro-choice principles I can recall, and while the nuts and bolts of “abortion reduction” are supported, they are contextualized as measures that might reduce the “need for abortion” rather than the number of abortions, a formulation acceptable to pro-choice activists. The “safe, legal and rare” mantra about abortion first popularized by Bill Clinton in 1992 does not appear in this draft, and there’s also no “conscience clause” explicitly expressing respect for, and acceptance of, differing views on this subject. This is probably the most forthright pro-choice plank in party history.
On another front, there was an unsuccessful effort by some Clinton supporters in Pittsburgh to promote a platform plank condemning caucuses as opposed to primaries as means for selecting future Convention delegates. The proposal was ruled out of order and referred to the Rules Committee, where it probably belonged. In any event, there was never any possibility that the platform committee would retroactively adopt the Clinton campaign’s late-spring effort to deligitimize Obama’s string of caucus victories. But this is an issue that will come up again after Election Day, when–win or lose–Democrats begin looking ahead to the nominating process for 2012.

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